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Yordan Alvarez: The Hulkiest Rookie of the Year of All-Time


Yordan Alvarez was amazing last year. Astros fans know that. Apparently everyone else in the American league knew that too. That’s why he was Rookie of the Year. That’s why he was walked over 14% of the time. Because no one wanted to take the approximately one in 12 chance that on any given at bat he would crush a dinger.

His rookie slash line: .313/.412/.655. His OPS of 1.067, just behind Mike Trout, would have been third in MLB if he had qualified. His OPS+ was 173. In case you don’t what that means, he was 73% better than the average hitter in baseball in 2019.

Which gets us to the point. OPS+ (or from Fangraphs, wRC+) gives us a way to measure the relative batting proficiency of hitters across time periods. By this measure Yordan Alvarez is the Hitting Hulk of Rookies of the Year since the award started in 1948. (Jackie Robinson was the first ROY)

Except one.

The following chart ranks the best rookies of the year by OPS+

Best Hitting Rookies of the Year

Player OPS+
Player OPS+
Willie McCovey 181
Yordan Alvarez 173
Jose Abreu 173
Aaron Judge 171
Mike Trout 168
Mark McGuire 164
Dick Allen 162
Carlton Fisk 162
Albert Pujos 157
Al Bumbry 154
Ryan Braun 154
Mike Piazza 153
Shohei Ohtani 151
Tony Oliva 150
Peter Alonso 148
Alum Davis 147
Frank Robinson 143
Cody Bellinger 143
Ronald Acuna 143
David Justice 143
mike Hargrove 140
Jeff Bagwell 139
Kris Bryant 135
Carlos Correa 135
Walt Dropo 134
Corey Seager 134
Darryl Strawberry 134
Buster Posey 133
Thurman Munson 126
Ishiru Suzuki 126
Orlando Cepeda 125
Willie Mays 120
Cal Ripkin 115
Rod Carew 113

2019 Rookie of the Year, Yordan Alvarez, had the highest OPS+ all-time among American League winners, tied with Jose Abreu. Only Willie McCovey had a higher rookie OPS+ than Alvarez. (McCovey only played 52 games, so I say he comes with an asterisk)

Alvarez hit better than Aaron Judge, Mike Trout, Mark McGuire, Frank Robinson, Albert Pujols, even Ted Williams (160) and Joe DiMaggio (128) in their rookie years. Of course, many great players were not great rookies, and many great rookies turned out to be one-hit wonders.

Still, it’s fun to stand back and appreciate with a little historical perspective just how great Yordan was last year.